Why retirement is feared by many professional athletes

Whether you play football, rugby, tennis, making it to the elite level of your respective sport is every child’s dream. After all the hours of dedication, drive and determination to make it to the top, the sheer emotion to have ‘made it’ must be unparalleled for any sportsman/woman.

Although, how do athletes cope when all of that is taken away from them?

In most cases, athletes are forced into retirement through unavoidable issues such as injury, age, etc. These physical limitations can often trigger mental side effects as the treatment bed is commonly known as ‘a lonely place’ when going through rehabilitation.

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FIFPro (International Federation of Professional Footballers) supports this by revealing that “35% of former players faced problems with depression and anxiety, particularly if they have suffered serious injuries during their playing careers. This compares to a rate of between 13% to 17% in the general population”.

Let’s look at some of the reasons to why this is…


The life of professional athletes are structured and tailored to maximise their performances in games. Usually, players train every day throughout the week, with the occasional day off on match day or after a game if necessary.

After retiring, certain players struggle to fill the void of daily training and weekly matches, as sport has occupied their whole life.

This constant practice and focused mind set on the upcoming games occupy the athletes mind, never allowing them to relax or take their mind off the task at hand.

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Once these players are taken out of that environment and given lots of free time to sit around the house, their mind begins to wonder, turning into boredom and eventually depression in some cases, through missing the lifestyle.


Another factor that athletes miss about professional sport is the adrenaline rush that is granted from preforming. Whether you are a footballer, a basketballer, playing in front of 50,000 or 50 people, the adrenaline rush that is granted from stepping past that white line is again, unparalleled for any athlete.

For the most part, it will be found that the top-level athletes relish the pressure and expectation of delivering in the clutch moments. In some cases, the pressure and adrenaline rushes are what enables certain pros to perform to their best ability.
Robbie Savage, one of footballs ‘pantomime villains’ was similar.

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“I always liked the abuse on the football field. It inspires me, makes me feel better, I thrive on it.”

As long as the football ‘banter’ between fans and players stays as banter and doesn’t ever cross a personal line, it is welcomed into the game as the players can harness it while the fans can enjoy the occasion in light spirits.

Upon retirement, sport stars are challenged with the task of transitioning into a ‘non-athlete’. This can be a scary thought as it isn’t something they are either familiar or comfortable with, opening another avenue to depression.

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Spreading Awareness

After being in the limelight for so long, some players find it hard to let go of their status as a professional athlete.

Players struggle to occupy their time if they don’t want to pursue a further career and thus suffer certain health issues.

People often don’t realise that professional athletes are also human.

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As it’s mental health week, please don’t be afraid to speak out about any issues related to yourself or someone you know.

A link to all of the contact numbers you need:


Matt Butterworth.


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